"You must conform. Defiance will not be tolerated. Conform. You must respect authority. You will comply. You must conform. Compliance is good. You must respect authority. Defiance will be punished. You must conform. You will comply. Welcome to Mr. McMahon's utopia." - Narrator to the WWE Over The Edge 1998 pay-per-view opening package.
Life may be imitating art here, as according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, just two days before Christmas, WWE issued to their performers an Orwellian sounding diktat regarding the company's policy on medical insurance.
Since May 2011, WWE have mandated that all their wrestlers must have valid health insurance coverage, despite not being willing to provide it for their talent themselves. Indeed, the company's standard booking contract includes a clause to that effect:
"NOTWITHSTANDING PROMOTER'S CURRENT POLICY OF PAYING MEDICAL EXPENSES FOR INJURIES WRESTLER MAY INCUR WHILE PERFORMING UNDER THIS AGREEMENT, WRESTLER SHALL MAINTAIN, AT HIS/HER COST AND EXPENSE, HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE. THIS HEALTH INSURANCE MUST REMAIN IN EFFECT FOR THE TERM OF THE AGREEMENT, AND WRESTLER SHALL PROVIDE PROMOTER PROOF OF THIS INSURANCE ANNUALLY. WRESTLER MAY AT HIS/HER ELECTION OBTAIN HEALTH, LIFE AND/OR DISABILITY INSURANCE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN THE EVENT OF PHYSICAL INJURY ARISING OUT OF OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES; AND WRESTLER ACKNOWLEDGES THAT PROMOTER SHALL NOT HAVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR SUCH INSURANCE OR PAYMENT IN THE EVENT OF PHYSICAL INJURY ARISING OUT OF HER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES."
Johnson claims that as of February 21st, 2016, WWE "will begin conducting random checks with insurance providers to make sure that [the] information talents have provided WWE regarding their personal medical insurance is correct, up to date and in order." If these random checks flag up a problem, then the talent will be told that they have to immediately rectify the situation or else they risk their future bookings with the company. Basically, WWE have put their talent on notice that they won't use uninsured performers.
It's amusing that WWE apparently noted in their communication to talent that "the health of their talents is a priority" when they aren't willing to provide free health insurance for their wrestlers, which proves that this move is more about public relations than a genuine concern for their talent's wellbeing.
It's unknown exactly why WWE are cracking the whip on this issue now, but I agree with David Bixenspan's hypothesis at SEScoops.com that it's likely because the company had discovered a case of someone gaming the system, perhaps by dropping coverage for most of the year.
My friend David Bixenspan also raised the interesting point that WWE would likely need to obtain HIPAA waivers from their wrestlers in order to carry out these checks:
"If the details of the report are true, then WWE must have or be in the process of getting HIPAA waivers from each talent to contact their insurance companies. HIPAA refers to the terms set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which put the current American medical privacy laws into effect. Without a HIPAA waiver from each wrestler for their respective insurance company, the insurer is legally bound from telling WWE (or anyone else without a waiver) if the person in question is a member."
I'm sure WWE is doing everything by the book, but, on the surface, this comes across as a completely unwarranted invasion of an independent contractor's right to privacy due to paranoia that they won't do as they're told.